SAFETY: Pa. Senate questioning Turnpike Commission’s response to massive Valentines’ Day pileup

Plummeting temps, 20 in. of snow led to 41 crashes involving 139 vehicles

Transportation Management News Philadelphia Inquirer March 13, 2014
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In the wake of the massive pileup involving more than 100 vehicles in Bucks and Montgomery Valentines’ Day weekend, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton appeared before a state Senate panel this week to discuss the agency’s response to the crisis. Compton acknowledged there were deficiencies in the way the situation was handled but blamed the high number of accidents elsewhere.

 

State police and PTC officials said that the roadway was still wet the morning of February 14 after being treated for ice hours earlier. A sudden drop in temperatures and up to 20 in. of snow caused new patches of ice to form, particularly on the eastbound Turnpike. These conditions are what led to the 41 crashes that day involving 139 vehicles, according to the state police. The pileup shut the Turnpike down for eight hours.

 

Compton told the Senate that the high volume of accidents stretched the PTC’s resources too thin to reach everyone quickly. He also cited communication challenges between PTC and local responding agencies.

 

Senate leaders were concerned that the barriers dividing the highway impeded emergency responders’ ability to get to crash sites. Committee chair Sen. John Rafferty said steel gates allowing access to both sides of the highway will be among his recommendations to improve emergency response.

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